Mikhail Boyarski wants to protect children from Harry Potter

Russia In Review

Russian parents should protect children from “low-quality” foreign cinema, such as the Harry Potter series, because it may “poison their souls, just like a death-cap mushroom,” argued one of Russia’s most famous actors, Mikhail Boyarski, while speaking with journalists at a cinema festival in the Crimea.

"If he [the child] watches five times [a Russian-origin] Cinderella cartoon, he will get five times better than if he watches Harry Potter,” Boyarski contended. “If you come with children to the woods where there are more death-cap mushrooms than white mushrooms, they will start eating poison mushrooms, unless adults explain that this cannot be done.” Boyarski said his analogy also applies to movies and their effect on children’s souls.

However, he conceded that this threat comes not only from Harry Potter and Western movies in general, but also from numerous “lousy” films of Russian origin. In his opinion, adults have already been poisoned, but their children are a different story.

This is only one of numerous critical statements from representatives of Russian cinema and the cultural elite expressed over recent months. Earlier, Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky said that he wants to show visitors Russian-made films rather than “trash like Suicide Squad that comes to us from Hollywood.”

Russian Online-Cinema Bid Is Halted

Chinese firm LeEco has cancelled plans to invest US$100 million in the purchase of a Russian online-cinema company, claiming that this sector of the Russian media business has passed through “fatty years” and has a slim chance to be profitable amid the current economic crisis.

“The problem we have faced in Russia is associated with the fact that the initial construction of the modern legal online cinemas took place in the ‘fatty years’ when millions of dollars were invested in the companies and the five-year planning horizon allowed them to reach payback, and even profitability,” explained Victor Sui, head of LeEco Russia and Eastern Europe.

According to insiders, LeEco had been negotiating with the largest market players, including ivi.ru, TVZavr, Megogo, Okko and Tvigle. As reported by Russian media outlet Kommersant, representatives of some of these companies believe LeEco in fact committed fraud, claiming the Chinese company never actually planned to purchase a Russian company, but only studied the market situation in order to bring in its own business venture to the country.

“It is always better to come into the market and start negotiations. When you sell a business, you explain all the nuances, the risks that you are going to face in the next three years,” the Kommersant report quotes one market participant as saying.

According to estimates of TMT-Consulting, the size of the Russian online-cinema market last year rose nearly one-third, reaching 3.4 billion rubles (US$50 million).

Russian Directors Bet on Disaster Movies

“The Year of Cinema” in Russia has been marked with an unprecedented number of disaster movies, including the already-released Crew and Armenian co-production Earthquake, as well as several films scheduled for the coming months such as Ice-Breaker and Gravity.

Surprisingly, this genre, prior to 2016 almost fully unexplored by Russian directors, so far is doing much better than the Russian film industry in general. For instance, Crew turned out to be one of the few domestic movies that reached one billion rubles (US$15 million) in box office, while Earthquake is Armenia’s selection for the Oscar race.

According to the director of Crew, Nikolai Lebedev, shooting of films in general in Russia is a rather risky business, but making disaster movies is even riskier, since the budgets for such films are usually bigger than for comedies, horror movies or other genres.

For instance, the director of Gravity, Fedyor Bondarchuk, promises very large-scale scenes of battles between the Russian army and aliens, which will almost fully destroy Moscow in the film. A similar situation takes place in Ice-Breaker, which is based on the true story of a Russian ice-breaker stuck in the Antarctic ice for 144 days, forcing the crew to fight for survival. Shooting conditions in severe cold are another difficult challenge for Ice-Breaker, along with the risky budget.